The Failed Drug War (7/19/01)

My history has its fair share of sins (maybe even more than my fair share), but I've never done drugs. Not exctasy. Not cocaine. Not so much as even a single puff on a joint. I'm no choir boy, but I've never been infatuated with the world of dope.

I don't advocate drug use.

That being said, I'm on the verge of declaring the drug war over and have finally started giving serious consideration to the issue of legalization. New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is now making the talk show rounds supporting this view. He may very well be right.

It was about five years ago when, as DA, I was invited to attend a brainstorming session out at the Sheriff's Office regarding the recent rash of "Nazi methamphetamine drug labs". It had pretty much been my policy to offer probation to those defendants charged with mere possession of drugs. This, obviously, did not make me popular among the ranks of law enforcement, but I certainly slept soundly every night.

So it was with some fear and trepidation that I walked into that room at the Sheriff's office that day. It was packed with cops ready to stomp out drugs. I took a seat on the back row and surveyed what was before me. There were Sheriff's deputies, officers from local police forces, representatives of the DEA (the DEA!), and representatives from the governors office. I would estimate the number of law enforcement officers in that room at probably fifty.

As I sat there, I couldn't help but begin to think about how futile it was to stop the use of drugs by a "round em up and arrest em policy". I don't think anyone in that room honestly believed their goal could be accomplished. Moreover, the amount of tax dollars being used in that single meeting was staggering much less the amount that would be spent in future pursuit of the dopers.

The officers spoke of the Nazi drug makers as if they were Satan. But are they? Even the head of the North Texas Regional Task Force in Wichita Falls, R.W. Smith, has pointed out that Nazi cooks are in it for personal use and not for selling. (Times-Record News, 6/12/2000). Personal use? Should we really care then?

In this country, a guy can go home at night, grab a bottle of scotch, and drink himself into oblivion without breaking a single law. Forget about the ingestion of any substance, he can blow his head off with a shotgun because of depression and, again, no laws are violated. Heck, he can go home and shoot a pound of butter into his heart and we don't care. He wants to gargle with Clorox? No law violation there, either. So why do we care about personal drug use in one's own home?

I really don't know. I'm not going to do it, but what my neighbor does behind closed doors is his business and certainly shouldn't be any concern of government.

Sure you can provide me with a ton of stories about how drugs have ruined someone's life, but there are an equal number of stories about how alcohol, prescription medication, or even flat out laziness have done the same thing. If people wish to self-destruct, they are going to find a way to accomplish that goal.

If we legalize the stuff, we could simply treat it as we currently do alcohol:
(1). It's illegal to buy it if you are a minor.
(2). It's illegal for an adult to buy it and then freely provide it to a  minor.
(3). It's illegal to drive under the influence of it.
(4). It's illegal to be in public under the influence if you are a danger to yourself and others.
(5). There are only certain locations and certain areas where it can be sold

What will the probable result be? Less crime and less taxes.

I support "Just Say No", but we need a new drug policy.

Could anything be any worse than our current system?

Barry Green served as District Attorney for Wise and Jack Counties from 1993 through 2000. He is now a partner in the Decatur law firm of Smith & Green, P.C.

These web site pages are Copyright. Contents or HTML representation and Graphics are Copyright 2000, Wise County on the Web, and may not be copied or mirrored without prior written permission.